Matthew Good | White Light Rock & Roll Review

“George is teaching the kids to fight/look at the world and you tell me it’s all right.”

Matthew Good: White Light Rock & Roll Review (Universal Canada)
With White Light Rock & Roll Review, Matthew Good has abandoned the strings and rich instrumentation of his last effort, Avalanche, and returned to his rock ’n’ roll roots. The result is a stripped-down, bare bones look at the world through Good’s bittersweet-colored glasses. Matthew Good has a sharp political mind with a liberal bent—check his blog online at www.matthewgood.net for his daily rants and causes—and his music is just another vehicle for expression. As you might expect, he turns much of his wrath on the current President of the United States.

Against the reductionistic guitar-bass-and-drums of White Light, Good’s message is made all the more poignant. His voice, too—slightly nasally, but rich and versatile—is more of a major player than it has been in the past. “Put out your lights,” Good commands on the introductory track, “you’re taken over/sit on your hands for the new national anthem/sounds a lot like shit but it goes on and on.”

On the Americana-tinged ballad “Empty Road,” Good implores his subject: “Dream of where it left you/when you were still too young/to know the difference between the faith in your heart/and the politics of looking dumb.” The stripped-down nature of the song makes it even more poignant, a good road song, indeed. First single (in Canada, anyway; when will the U.S. wake up to this fabulous singer-songwriter?) “Alert Status Red” has Good confessing, “Man, I forget which came first/the bad idea or me befallen by it/not giving a shit?” The straightforward guitar licks and solid beat, coupled with Good’s charming vibrato, make this song unforgettable.

Big-league guitars squall on “Little Terror.” “In Love With a Bad Idea” has more of a rockabilly feel; Good delivers his lines rapidly, almost spoken-word. The politics shine through the fast-rocking “North American for Life” as Good dares, “George is teaching the kids to fight/look at the world and you tell me it’s all right.”

At 8:14, “Blue Skies Over Bad Lands” is the longest track on the album. It’s a slow, aching parable of understanding other lands and other people, and definitely worth a close listen or two. The warm ballad “It’s Been a While Since I Was Your Man” is a tale of love lost, as Good admits, “As time passed us by/we never felt like we should/we never did what we ought to.”

Closing the disc is the awkwardly named “Ex-Pats of the Blue Mountain Symphony Orchestra” which features the album’s most stunning imagery: “Saturdays I’m reminded of/bombs away/over our house when it could have been, should have been, doves.” Good’s voice hits a beautiful falsetto as he delivers the chorus; behind him, the guitar aches and the drums gallop onward.
Even if you don’t embrace Good’s politics, you have to respect him for being one hell of a musician and singer. The richness and versatility of his expansive catalog speaks to his many talents. And if you find yourself singing along, don’t worry: you just might learn something.

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